Dear D.C.

August 14, 2017 | Nermina Aly, 2017 AAPD Summer Intern

As I leave you, I would like to reminiscence about my time here and what led me to you in the first place.

They say that rewarding experiences are bred through stepping outside of your comfort zone. This summer, I did just that. I was not sure what to expect when I was accepted into the AAPD internship program not to mention interning on your most famous hill–Capitol Hill. Instead of thinking about the what if’s, I closed my eyes and sooner than I knew it I was in our nation’s capital working in the heart of politics. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for Zach Baldwin and AAPD.

My appreciation for AAPD goes back to last July when I was applying for scholarships to help pay for my college tuition. It was during the phone interview for the scholarship that I had my first correspondence with Zach—I did not know it at the time but that would be the first of many interactions (all delightful) with him. Receiving the 2016 Tony Coehlo Media Scholarship was life changing, yet little did I know that the next summer, my life would change again.

I remember first hearing about the summer internship program during my phone interview for the Tony Coehlo award and it was inconceivable to me and beyond my wildest dreams that I would ever be interning here exactly one year later.

Fast forward to now—I am nearing the end of my internship and time here and this summer has been the most rewarding time in my life. Not only did I get to explore the splendor of what you have to offer—history, breathtaking architecture, museums, etc., but I had the blessing to learn more about myself and immerse myself within the disability community.

I want to thank Zach and AAPD for truly giving me the summer of a lifetime. AAPD ensures the creation of future disability advocacy leaders through keeping the interns busy all summer. The weekly events, optional and mandatory were extremely informational and gave all of the interns a chance to network with leaders in the disability community including Ted Kennedy Jr, the Board Chair of AAPD. Personally for me, the highlight was the annual ADA event, celebrating the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the legislation that has forever changed the disability community, giving equal rights to millions who have lived their lives being discriminated against. Although we have a long way to go, the ADA has been around for longer than I’ve been alive, and I can only hope more disability friendly legislation gets passed in the years to come.

Overall, I would not take this summer back for anything! Thank you to every single person I’ve had the pleasure to meet this summer and a special thanks goes out to Susan Diegelman, my AAPD mentor, and Zach and Helena for making this all possible.

You’ve been great to me D.C.! Until we meet again!

Yours Truly,



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Nermina Aly is a 2017 AAPD Summer Intern placed with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Nermina authored an earlier blog post – My First Month in DC.

The New Presidential Administration and Questions from the Disability Community

April 12, 2017 | Joyce Bender, CEO of Bender Consulting Services and AAPD Board Member

Every four years, there is a Presidential election, and Bender Consulting Services, Inc., receives calls from people with disabilities asking for information on the impact of the new administration on the disability community. People ask how things will change and if the new President will support the disability community. Regardless of political affiliation, this volume of calls is encouraging because it signifies that people with disabilities are interested in policy decisions that will affect their lives. People with disabilities, and all Americans, have to be aware of everything going on that could impact them-positive or negative. Specifically, where can the disability community go to stay informed about what is happening now?

Connect with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) on their website to sign up for the Disability Download, AAPD’s monthly e-newsletter, and policy action alerts.

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. AAPD will not only provide the latest information on disability policy efforts at the national level, but also offer updates on activities at state and local levels, allowing advocates to participate in grassroots organizing efforts on issues that impact them in their communities.

I am on the board of the American Association of People with Disabilities and very honored to be a Past-Chair of the Board. The Chair who preceded me was the Honorable Tony Coelho, the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, AAPD is a national cross-disability advocacy organization. AAPD acts as an information hub for the disability civil rights community. As a bi-partisan organization, AAPD engages on an on-going basis with the White House and Congress no matter which political party controls these executive and legislative bodies.

Over 15 years ago, I went to my first AAPD Gala. At that time, the event was much smaller than the grand event we know today. I was so impressed by the advocacy work, led by AAPD, in the disability community. At that time, Andy Imparato served as CEO with a small, but powerful staff. Since that time, AAPD has continued to grow its reputation and influence as a collective voice for the disability community, led by current CEO Helena Berger, who is highly respected in the disability civil rights community. AAPD is often sought after to gain perspective on how policy issues will impact people with disabilities or how to gain the support of the disability community on these issues, resulting in a seat for AAPD at critical national policy-making meetings.

With a change of administration, the disability community has questions about how policies will impact them. How will the President and Congress move forward on the Affordable Care Act? Will there be Medicaid block grants? What about IDEA and possible changes to the ADA? Bender Consulting Services wants to connect you to the best source for accurate and comprehensive information to answer those questions—AAPD.

I encourage you to keep up with the news in our community and broader policy issues in general, as the disability community needs to have a seat at the table in discussing all issues facing our country and the world.

Lead on!


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Joyce Bender is the CEO of Bender Consulting Services, Inc. and a current member of AAPD’s Board of Directors.

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